East is the team to beat in everyone's mind, but it was that way last year, and we were able to get it done against them. It won't be easy, and it wasn't easy last year, but if we do our assignments, then we should be all right. —Timpview coach Cary Whittingham
SALT LAKE CITY — Broken down to 13 weeks to 90 days to 2,176 hours, the duration is identical as is the result. When East and Timpview first took the field on Aug. 23, they were the best programs in 4A. When the two meet for the final time in the 4A state championship, nothing has changed.
The Leopards (13-0) and Thunderbirds (12-1), who exchanged fatal blows in consecutive seasons (2011-12) in the semifinals, have been the best from the onset, and at 11 a.m. Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium, they’ll finally determine the true champion of the classification.
"East has a very well-coached team, but I like how we match up,” said Timpview coach Cary Whittingham, who is 7-0 all-time in the postseason. “East is the team to beat in everyone's mind, but it was that way last year, and we were able to get it done against them. It won't be easy, and it wasn't easy last year, but if we do our assignments, then we should be all right."
This is the eighth time the programs have faced off, with every previous meeting occurring in the postseason, including East’s 37-0 win in the 1996 state championship — the only time in 10 title-game appearances Timpview lost.
"I'm so excited for the matchup and for the challenge East presents,” Timpview quarterback Britain Covey said. “We have so much respect for what they've done and just for who they are as a team. It's going to take everything we have to beat them, and it's going to be a huge challenge for us. It always is when you play East."
The two have combined for a perfect 20-0 record against 4A competition while delivering the top two scoring offenses in the classification. East outscored 4A opponents by an average margin of 53-13 and Timpview 45-10. East’s Ula Tolutau leads 4A in rushing (2,344 yards) and rushing touchdowns (30), while Timpview’s Covey ranks third in both categories (1,179 yards and 16 touchdowns).
Yet, East coach Brandon Matich believes the defenses will have a bigger impact.
“I think you’re going to get a really good defensive battle,” he said. “I know their defense is being touted as very good and I know our defense is pretty darn good as well. There’s a big conversation about their defense vs. our offense, and obviously they’re taking that personal on shutting us down. We’re going to be who we are and do what we do.”
The Leopards accounted for 6,811 yards of total offense and 81 touchdowns compared to 4,942 yards and 63 touchdowns Timpview produced. The Thunderbirds' defense recorded 54 sacks and 19 interceptions and East grabbed 31 picks with 49 sacks.
Timpview’s defensive line has garnered praise from numerous outlets, specifically Isaiah Nacua, who leads 4A with 18 sacks.
“You bet they are,” Matich said when asked if the offensive line is taking the hype surrounding Timpview’s defensive front personally. “That’s something that was talked about (Thursday) evening. Their defensive line is getting a lot of props. Well, this offensive line has produced one of the highest producing offenses in state history and they’re not being talked about.”
Contributing: Brandon Gurney